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Top 10 ways to gain knowledge and insights

Updated on August 24, 2010

There is a saying that some have eyes but cannot see. Another saying goes there is a difference between seeing and looking. Both sayings are very true when you consider their meaning which is seeing beyond appearances. Seeing beyond the ordinary is more of being insightful knowing fact from fiction by being able to understand and know truths without being close to the source.

The benefits of insight cannot be ignored because, it is known to serve very useful purposes especially in decision making, taking decisive action and correcting mistakes. A man with great insight seems to be many years ahead of his peers because of his ability to predict, judge and dominate his environment. So having insights at your beck and call makes you a master of your life and controller of your fate.

The methods one could apply in order to ‘see’ beyond the ordinary, is what this article is about. So how can one see beyond the ordinary? I will want to use my personal experience to illustrate methods for obtaining insights as well as mention what qualities will encourage one to obtain insights. Naturally insights tend to become wise sayings as people become more conversant with reality.

Methods for obtaining insights

1. Observing natural phenomenon

There are many naturally occurring events common in plant and animal life which have direct or indirect, similar or slightly dissimilar connections with human interactions. For instance in trying to assess relationships, I have often referred to the basic relationship that exists among living organisms such parasitism, mutualism and commensalism and have come to know that all relationships with people can either be harmful or beneficial or neither. This might seem obvious to the ordinary eye but look deeper into this fact and discover that most people act as if they are unaware of this. The habits they form, the interests they maintain and the choices they make would cause one to wonder if one would knowingly self destruct. Another insight I have obtained from nature is that the most fortunate are people who prepare for both the worst and the best of situations. These people are least likely to get into trouble or become miserable. I got this insight by observing the best surviving organisms within their respective environments and found that certain organisms live longer and are better placed than others of their kind. The attributes which made this possible were enterprise, communal and cooperative behaviors, pragmatism and resourcefulness. In order cases, certain other organisms survive better because they are out of harm’s way (predators and environmental hazards) and live productive, peaceful lives. The lessons from this can easily be seen with the most fortunate people in any place you can think of. The idea behind this method is to see the lesson behind the phenomenon.

2. Cursory study of human actions

Another way to obtain insights is through the careful and attentive study of actions of others particularly your mentors and friends. Unlike natural phenomena which tend to provide universal insights, studying human actions tends to produce very specific insights, the kind of insights which come only with unique experiences. These kinds of insights seem to be secrets to the average person but they simply are well documented (not necessarily written they could also be orally maintained) facts which can only be accessed by people in the know of such facts. The benefit with this kind is its tendency to surpass expectations way ahead of their time. People who are fortunate to possess this insight usually guard such knowledge because of the priviledge they enjoy from doing so. For instance in professions, certain knowledge is only known by members and not outsiders.

3. Personal experiences

Another good source of insight comes from personal experiences. A very bitter lesson will naturally cause one to take stock of his/her dealings in order to avoid repeats. Most of the insights we derive as individuals naturally come from personal experiences. I remember the most embarrassing moment of my life was caused by not being dutiful when it mattered most. I was so embarrassed by my mistake that I cried like a baby, failing to act dutifully especially at decisive moments can have both embarrassing and disastrous consequences.

4. Dreams

To most people dreams are meaningless. Trying to interpret dreams is seen as superstitious more so that psychology seems to have an explanation of what dreams really are- unprocessed thoughts that remain in the subconscious for a while. But dreams sometimes provide insights for real life situations. I remember learning from a particular dream I had about my country Nigeria and Russia in which both countries approached the US in 1985 for technology to mine oil and operate refineries. By 2009 Russia had become an economic giant because she not only wanted to mine oil but was also interested in building refineries and exporting such technology to other less endowed countries, whereas Nigeria was satisfied with exporting petroleum. Lesson here is that the more productive your motivation is for doing something, the greater the reward you receive.

5. Meditation and reflection

The human mind seems to have the ability to learn outside of its confines. The ability to learn something profound through quiet and purposeful thinking without being taught by someone else is a miracle that I love to experience seasonally. From this method I have come to understand that negative thinking is usually triggered by early life experiences and environment. People with evil inclinations behave that way because they refuse to accept that anything good should be justly distributed but only come at their own time and place neglecting whether or not others will benefit from such, just as people inclined to doing good act in the opposite way. Naturally enmity is built where large disparities exist in a person’s desires, interests, expectations and beliefs with another’s. This explains why psychopaths hurt harmless people for no just cause. In all, men base their behaviors on their understanding of life and how the world treats them.

6. Brainstorming sessions

Brainstorming involves asking a specific question to an identified problem with a view to come up with an answer that will be a solution to the identified problem. I have learnt that ideas come more naturally from brainstorming than from any other method. Having a most unusual idea to a common problem would appear to be the work of someone who lives on another planet, but brainstorming is a major source of many unusual ideas. Imagine the idea behind the invention of the automatic fire extinguisher, the inventor certainly lived with people and did interact with them however being able to ask a specific question “How can fire be put out automatically?” was what gave birth to the idea behind the invention.

7. Fairy tales

The morale behind fairy tales might seem outrageous but quite a number of insights hide behind these so called unrealistic stories. Think about the Cinderella story, the most important morale to me is ‘what will be, will be’. Trying to stop what you cannot control is a waste of time.

8. Wise sayings

Let sleeping dogs lie is very rich in insight. It indicates the futility in undoing something that has already happened like trying to justify wrong doing, expressing regrets longer than necessary and so on. Trying to avenge a wrong could turn out be a self destructive venture remember the saying “an eye for an eye will cause us all to be blind”. The saying that “aggression comes back to you” explains why hatred has a way of punishing the one expressing it. “Opportunity waits for no one” teaches us to make the most of time and chance just as “a hint is sufficient to the wise” let’s us know that a little knowledge can be a source of profound understanding for those who choose to learn constantly. These insights have over time served many wise men well. In times of adversity, prosperity, pestilence and strife there is always a saying that provides insight for the best or more suitable action to take.

9. Adventure

Adventure provides a learning process for new experiences. Knowledge gained from adventure tend to be ground breaking and subjective until when shared with others.

10. Experiments

I consider experiments to be the lord of all these methods, although expensive and time consuming, it is however very thorough and less erroneous than all the other methods, because it always turns out a direct answer or solution which can be easily assessed. It by far is the most reliable method but the process of knowing and learning from this method is tedious. However with a conclusion that is highly reliable, experiments (tests) settle all dissents about what is or is not. In our daily lives we experiment with situations, ideas (gamble, use trial and error) or test people to confirm a suspicion, belief or hunch we already hold. As long as the experiment or test is well executed and controlled, the results are always accurate.

In conclusion I would state that life has taught me to see every experience as a learning curve, hence why I will always prefer the quest for insights to merely holding on to conventions.


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    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Very varied "insightful" article. And intensely researched and put together. Gaining insight should be one of our priorities in life.

    • Paulipopo profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Abuja, Nigeria

      Thanks Tonymac04 and joeleighton for the comments

    • joeleighton profile image


      8 years ago

      Hey, your subconscious mind keeps a perfect record of everything you have ever experienced. Call on it when you need better understanding.

      Great post, makes people think.

      Regards, Joe

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      We can indeed learn from everything we experience and encounter on our daily rounds. Thanks for pointing out how to do this. Bookmarked! And I'm linking it to my Hub on personal growth with balance, LOL!

      Love and peace



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